A Round Of Wine For Thanksgiving: The ‘Help Yourself’ Version

holiday wine, what to serve with Thanksgiving I was having a conversation just yesterday about the joys of Thanksgiving and they boil down to this: food and family. And I dare say, for many of us, the food category includes wine. My husband and I have served Thanksgiving to our big, extended Irish family since before we had children. I do recall a much, much younger me, a woman who printed out a list of Thanksgiving-friendly wine suggestions from some expert online and took it, part-and-parcel to the wine shop. It’s actually how I fell in love with Beaucastel, after buying some for that meal. If you’ve ever paused with concern about what to serve at Thanksgiving, I’m here to relieve your fears. I’ve tasted a number of excellent wines over the past months that will be lovely with your dinner. Rather than line up pairings—an act nearly impossible for the wide-open feast—this article highlights interesting wines ...

A Pair of Iconic Cab Producers and a Sonoma linked Champagne

2012 Alexander Valley Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (750ml $72; 1.5l $199)
Jordan Vineyard & Winery has been an iconic producer of Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon since practically its first release in 1976.  Their estate is located in the Alexander Valley AVA - just north of Healdsburg - which is the largest wine region in the county. The AVAs boundaries have changed slightly over the years but the the original border extended from the banks of the Russian River eastward to the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains and is sheltered by the moderating influences of the Pacific.  This means the day times are dry and hot whereas the colder night temperatures create a large diurnal temperature swing leading to slowly maturing grapes and intense acids. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon contains 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot; and 2% Malbec from the Jordan estate and ...

A Closer Look At Grower Champagne With Champagne André Jacquart

1er Cru, Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Le Mesnil, Sur Oger, Vertus
Grower Champagne, such as this exceptional bottle, from Champagne André Jacquart, is often terroir-driven. Credit: Jill Barth
Many consumers have become accustomed to assuming that the grapes for their wine somehow always grow in relation to the winery. While frequent wine drinkers learn differently very quickly, many folks that pull a wine off the shelf attribute all of the work to the name on the label. This is all part of the learning process, perhaps one of the most intricate points of understanding wine. I’ll keep it brief and very basic.
Sell Or Make
Wine grape growers work in vineyards around the world. In some cases the vineyard owner and his close associates (even family) work in the vines, in other cases the vineyard owner is a third party that hires out the care of the vines. Either way, when the grapes are harvested, the vineyard owner needs to make ...

The Wines of Champagne – with Maison Veuve Clicquot

18veuve1main.jpg Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron. Philippe’s son, François Clicquot, married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798 and died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company involved in banking, wool trading, and Champagne production. She became the first woman to take over a Champagne house. The 1811 comet vintage of Veuve Clicquot is theorized to have been the first truly “modern” Champagne due to the advancements in the méthode champenoise which Veuve Clicquot pioneered through the technique of remuage (undergoing secondary fermentation within the bottle). Veuve Clicquot is also credited with being the first Champagne House to make a rosé Champagne. Dominique Demarville has been Cellar Master of Veuve Clicquot since 2009. He found his calling in 1985 during his first summer job, harvesting in Champagne. He subsequently earned a technical degree in oenology and viticulture at Lycée Viticole de la Champagne in Avize and a ...

French Rules Ease To Help Winemakers Deal With Extreme Weather

Vignerons Indépendants du Lot-et-Garonne, Périgord Wine, Dordogne Wine
Vignerons Indépendants du Lot-et-Garonne cave in Duras, France. Credit: Jill Barth

The French governing body overseeing wine appellation regulations, the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO), announced this month that wine producers are now allowed to hold back more stock, following recent losses caused by extreme weather conditions. The action enables winemakers to set aside a portion of any vintage in order to maintain a supply for future use. The INAO compared the action to “crop insurance” as a measure of adaptability.

The current stock storage rules date back to 2013, put in place in order to maintain a reasonable reserve in the case of adverse conditions resulting in reduced quantity. Prior to the June 2018 announcement by the INAO, wineries were allowed to hold back an amount equal to 10% of their stock. To read the full story, please visit my Forbes contributor page here.  For background on ...

Three Champagnes from H Blin

Champagne H. Blin L’Esprit Nature Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV, France (£40 Wine Cellar Club, The Secret Cellar) Young, fresh style of Champagne, which sees quite voluptuous baked apple, stewed rhubarb and brioche flavours wrapped round a slender, steely/stony mineral backbone with a chalk note to the finish. Very good. S(+) Champagne H. Blin […]

Weekend Wine Notes: Six Champagnes for Mom

Mother’s Day is Sunday, as if you didn’t know. Millions of people throughout our fair land will be gathered for brunch in crowded restaurants, served by harried waiters from kitchens on the brink of panic. And, not coincidentally, drinking those horrid Mimosas made from cheap, lowest-common-denominator sparkling wines. Spare Mom the embarrassment, at least of the Mimosa, by procuring for her one — or more; we’re talking about your mother — of the following six Champagnes. These are all non-vintage brut Champagnes, “non-vintage” meaning that the product is a blend of wines from several years; each house has its own style and formula. “Brut” meaning fairly dry to really dry, though that quality can vary from house to house too. In any case, we have five Excellent ratings here and one Exceptional. Prices range from a cluster around $45 to $65 to the grand gesture of $140. I eschew the ...

Crémant Wines Check All the Right Boxes

Crémant is produced using the methode traditionelle but comes from many regions across France. Often a fraction of Champagne prices, these sparkling wines exhibit value and taste for lovers of French wines. Crémant wines check all the right boxes: affordable, high-quality, delicious, and diverse. With a robust selection of bottles in the $20-$30 range, Crémant is approachable in price and expressive in profile.
methode traditionelle, limoux, sparkling wine, bubbly wine
Crémant d’Alsace brut rosé, credit: Jill Barth
“Right now things are changing and crémant represents the smart choice,” said Bastien Lalauze, winemaker and estate manager of Château Martinolles, a Limoux-based property that produces a portfolio of crémant. Eight French regions have achieved an appellation to produce crémant. Over half of crémant is produced in Alsace; the rest comes from Bourgogne (Burgundy), Limoux, the Loire, Jura, Savoie, Die, and Bordeaux.
For the full story, I’ll direct your next click to USA Today 10Best Eat Sip Trip, ...

Tasting Romance: French Wine and the Senses

Last week I was up on Spring Mountain in Napa, tasting through wines with the team from Cain Vineyard & Winery. Christopher Howell, Wine-Grower/General Manager encouraged us to sip the wine without smelling it first. Further, to close our eyes – to rely on taste only, that and the feel of the wine in our mouth. “Smelling and tasting,” said Howell, “is our chance to connect with nature.”  To take that a step further, our chance to connect with ourselves. How we immerse into and learn about the world from our own impressions. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone say that if eyes were shut, a certain wine would “taste red” when it was white (or vice versa). Brain science supports that our senses are woven deeply together, wired tightly with our mind and wrapped up in emotion. In his book, I Taste Red, Jaime Goode ...
Savoie wine, Loire Wine, Beaujolais Wine, Côte-Rôtie, Rhône wine
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white wine, Alpine wine, Savoie Wine
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Champagne Francis Orban

Francis Orban pours samples of his champagnes at APVSA tasting in Washington DC.

In January we attended a wine tasting put on by he APVSA, Association for the Promotion of Wines and Spirits in North America, tasting in Washington DC. Present at the tasting was Champagne Francis Orban. The champagne house has been in the business for four generations beginning with the founding by Léopold Orban in 1929. The generations continued with Gaëtan Orban, Pol Orban and now Francis Orban. The family’s vineyards lie about nine miles from Epernay in the Marne Valley. The soils are composed of mostly clay-limestone. These vineyards are ideal for Pinot Meunier. I met Francis Orban at the APVSA tasting. He grew up with both of his parents in the champagne business. In 1999 Francis completed his studies and joined the family business. In 2007 he started his own champagne house. Champagnes

Millésime 2011


Champagne Froment Griffan

Champagne Froment Griffan Sélection at APVSA tasting in Washington DC, January 2018

At the APVSA, Association for the Promotion of Wines and Spirits in North America, tasting in Washington DC in January, I had the opportunity to learn about Champagne Froment Griffan. Marie Froment was at the tasting and answered some questions via email. Marie along with her husband Mathias own the champagne house. Marie wrote, “Our Champagnes are not imported in the US for the moment, but we think they can match well with this market, that’s why we are doing the tastings with the APVSA.” Marie mentioned the couple’s family history in wine, “The Champagne FROMENT GRIFFON is a familial Champagne House, coming from my husband Mathias’ family. I, Marie, am coming from the Loire Valley. From Saumur, my family was also in  the wine industry. They were the owners of Gratien & Meyer in Saumur, ...

#FlyEaglesFly (Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut Champagne)

Philly Special

The “Philly Special” that helped make Philly truly special

I rarely listen to Philly sports talk radio. This is not because I don’t like the sports franchises of my adopted-home nearest-metropolitan-city; the only major sports category in which a Philadelphia team isn’t my #1 is the NFL (Steelers fan here), and even then the only time I wouldn’t cheer on the Eagles is when they’re playing the Steelers (which is, thankfully, a relative rarity). The reason I don’t listen to Philly sports talk radio – especially this time of year – is because for many, many moons it’s been full of the self-flagellating, though legitimate, tales of woe of Eagles fans, many of whom have literally gone their entire lives wondering what it would be like for their home team to be crowned Superbowl Champions. This week, I’ve be listening to Philly sports radio almost non-stop. And yes, it really ...
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut, Champagne

Champagne Laurent Lequart

Champagne Laurent Lequart Brut Nature at the APVSA tasting in Washington DC, January 2018

Champagne Laurent Lequart has 10 hectares of vineyards in the Passy Grigny village of the Marne Valley. The vineyards comprise of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Pinot Meunier plays a vital role in the champagne house’s champagnes. Six of the champagnes were available for tasting at the APVSA, Association for the Promotion of Wines and Spirits in North America, tasting in Washington DC in January. The Réserve Brut Meunier was made entirely with Pinot Meunier. The yellow colored wine had multiple columns of tiny bubbles forming a center mousse on the surface of the wine. The champagne had a very creamy mouthfeel and offered berry fruit and a crisp finish. The wine had 9 g/L of residual sugar and aged for two years. Champagnes The Blanc de Blancs Brut was crafted with 100% ...

Champagne Pierre Launay

Champagne Pierre Launay Rosé at the APVSA tasting in Washington DC, January 2018

I had an opportunity to attend a tasting of wines at the APVSA, Association for the Promotion of Wines and Spirits in North America, tasting in Washington DC in January. One of the producers was Champagne Pierre Launay. The Launay family settled in Barbonne-Fayel in the 1920’s. Champagne Pierre Launay was established in 1973, now three brothers, Laurent Launay, Jérôme Launay and Lionel Launay operate the vineyards and winery. We met Laurent at the tasting and asked a few questions by email. Wine Trail Traveler: When did your wine journey begin?
Laurent Launay: It started 45 years ago. My parents started to plant vines 50 years ago at the end of the 60’s, then installed their first press in 1971 and sold the first bottles in 1973. The last two sons started to work ...